The Benefits of Stress

Generally, I’m a pretty anti-stress person. I endeavor to make my life simpler and calmer, eliminating or circumventing sources of anxiety. But although I still roll my eyes a little every time I hear someone distinguish between “distress” and “eustress“, I wish to write here about positive and negative stress.

There isn’t necessarily a sharp dividing line between negative stress and positive stress. Frequently, I believe, the positive aspect of stress comes in retrospect, from looking at the internal or external product which the stress helped create. However, the most rudimentary distinction between the two is that positive stress comes from a challenge, whereas negative stress is more Sisyphean and futile. Positive stress is a challenging task at work, a tough work-out regimen, or a 20-page paper to write. Negative stress comes from frustration or annoying peers or a seemingly endless workload.

The difference is ultimately about confidence in one’s ability to solve or adapt to the problem. But that doesn’t mean people feeling deficient in confidence have no recourse but negative stress. Instead, an attitude of acceptance and belief that “everything will be all right” can make everything seem sunnier.

Yesterday I lost track of time in the morning and had to run for half an hour to get to the bus out of Vancouver. It was a bummer of a situation, and I was definitely stressing out the whole time. But I did make it, and even if I hadn’t I would have been able to catch another bus. And furthermore, it harshly reminded me that I need to keep track of time leading up to a deadline. We learn things, and sometimes we can do so without stress, but most of the time we make mistakes or experience stress, and that is how we learn.

Do you have any specific methods for turning negative stress into positive stress?

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